Tacoma Screw’s plans for Gig Harbor area fulfillment center under last stages of review

Tacoma Screw’s 80,000-square-foot project in Gig Harbor is underway.

Neighbors are concerned about increased traffic from the fulfillment center and retail outlet on the site of the former Gig Harbor Athletic Club.
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Neighbors are concerned about increased traffic from the fulfillment center and retail outlet on the site of the former Gig Harbor Athletic Club.

Tacoma Screw Products is in the final stages of its permitting process for a fulfillment center at the former site of the Gig Harbor Athletic Club, 2002 36th St. NW, Gig Harbor.

While that news alone might still be a surprise to some, the plans have been in the works since at least September 2013. In its permitting file online, an email from the county to company officials at that time clarified zoning regulations for the site with a rough outline of the plans.

Starting in December 2013, the company, who had purchased the site, leased building space for $1 a year to PenMet Parks for indoor soccer and administrative offices until the company was ready to redevelop the site.

PenMet Parks executive director Terry Lee told The Gateway in January 2018: “At some point they are going to want to use that site for distribution.”

The lease expired in November, and those plans are now coming to life.

The site is across from Madrona Woods condominiums, a gated 55+ community. It also is close to Madrona Links Golf Course.

A variance request to allow the new facility to be 48 feet in height included details of the project. According to that report, dated Jan. 18, 2019, a Notice of Application was sent Nov. 16, 2018, to property owners “within a radius of 300 feet, but not less than two parcels deep, around the exterior boundaries of the site.”

That wording is similar to what’s listed in other recent planning reviews, such as the one for PenMet Parks’ future indoor recreation center at 2416 14th Ave. NW, which has been home to Performance Golf Center.

In the staff comment included in the Tacoma Screw height variance report, it noted: “The neighbors have been informed of this request and staff has not received any comments that would indicate there would be any impact to neighbors within the immediate vicinity. Granting the variance will not adversely affect property, sight distance, or the road right-of-way.”

Kelly Welsh, who lives near the site, recently shared her own take on the project.

“I believe this ‘fulfillment center’ project has not been publicized because they knew a project of this size is not appropriate for this site which is surrounded by homes,” Welsh told The News Tribune via email.

The building site is in an unincorporated location, “but right across the street is Gig Harbor property,” Welsh noted.

John Wolfe, executive adviser for Tacoma Screw, told The News Tribune this week that while he was not yet at a point to discuss the site’s plans, he held firm that the company had been up front with the community about project.

“We’ve been open with the community. We’ve had long involvement with the property even when it was still the facilities and athletics center. We’re now in the final stages of permits.”

In the height variance report, planning staff noted the “adjacent sites are not currently rural in nature. The height variance for the reconstruction should not affect surrounding uses,” and that the location itself “is hampered for most uses due to the adjacent major highway and on-ramp for state Route 16.”

The report recommended approval of the variance. The Hearing Examiner status of the request is marked “pending review.”

A promotional video about the new fulfillment center, posted on YouTube and Facebook in May, touts the extra storage the site will bring “to help it provide top-level customer service.”

Details from the project’s traffic impact analysis posted on the county’s online permit site shed light on how the project is shaping up.

The building’s total size is listed at 80,000 square feet, with 77,500 square feet of it to be used as an order fulfillment center, and 2,500 square feet to be used as retail, according to the report.

That use of the space makes the site allowable under the codes for a Rural Activity Zone, the result of a 2011 Hearing Examiner decision. That classification, while not allowing for warehouse/distribution by itself, does allow it in combination with office/retail space, with the warehouse/distribution portion to come in under 80,000 square feet.

The traffic impact analysis approved by the county in May lists an estimated 150 daily vehicle trips, 69 occurring during weekday evening peak hour.

According to the report, the fulfillment center at the start would have up to 60 employees, “anticipated to be staffed Monday through Friday approximately 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.”

Planned future automation of the center “will reduce the number of fulfillment center employees to up to 50. The horizon year for this analysis is 2024; therefore, the assumption of 60 employees is conservative.”

The on-site store is mainly “to capture customers that may drive by this facility and decide to stop to get product,” according to the traffic report. “It is not intended that this facility would be a primary retail store serving the study area,” noting its larger stores in Bremerton and Tacoma.

The report further stated: “An average of 13 trucks are anticipated per day. Given the operating hours of the facility, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., assuming a uniform distribution of trucks over the 11 hours, it is estimated there would be up to two inbound and two outbound truck trips during the weekday PM peak hour.”

The site is accessible from eastbound state Route 16 as the last exit before the Narrows toll booths, and there is an on ramp for eastbound state Route 16 at 36th Street Northwest.

The report states: “With the half interchange at 36th Street NW, travel to and from state Route 16 would also use the interchanges to the north and south.”

Welsh said she remained concerned about the extra traffic, particularly at the Olympic exit. The Olympic/Point Fosdick area also attracted concerns about additional traffic during the relocation of Fred Meyer, which played a part in that project’s delays in 2017.

A spokesman for the county’s planning and public works department said trucks going to and from the Tacoma Screw site must stick to county arterial roads, noting that it would be up to the drivers to determine the best route.

The county did not offer a timeline as to when the project’s final review would be complete.